When in 1846 a separate Military Chaplain was appointed for the Cantonment, Fr. Leitao continued in charge of the Civil Catholic population not only of Poona but of Kirkee. Those who were subject to Padroado had their City Chapel and St. Anne’s to attend, while the Propaganda subjects continued to hear Mass at Fr. Leitao’s bungalow – situated,at the corner of East Street and Exhibition Road. The need of a proper church was badly felt, especially since 1850, when St. Patrick’s was opened nearly three miles away, so that only those that could afford a conveyance were able to go there. Accordingly on December 9th, 1859 (with the assistance of Mr. Loughnan) Father Steins applied for a plot of ground “on Malcolm Tank Road” to be laid out for a Roman Catholic chapel and school.
The request was favourably received and soon granted. From January 9th to August 25th, 1860 there were several exchanges of correspondence, in course of which the land was described as destined “for a Roman Catholic chapel, school, priest’s quarters, etc.Thedesigns of the church were made by Br. Schmidt and the foundation stone was blessed on October 14th, 1860 by Mgr. Bonnand, Vicar-Apostolic of Pondicherry and Visitator Apostolic, who happened to be in Pune just at that time. His Lordship was supported by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexius Canoz, SJ, Vicar-Apostolic of Madura, but acting for the time being as Vicar-Apostolic of Bombay, Sede Vacante, and Administrator of Poona; and by the Very Rev. Walter Steins, SJ, Vicar-General and Superior of the Jesuits.
While the building of St. Xavier’s Church was in progress Fr. Leitao died (Dec. 1861) and the care of the civil population fell to the Military Chaplain of St. Patrick’s. Fr. Leitao’s bungalow was sold, and Mass had to be said within the bare walls of St. Xavier’s Church till the roof was put on. The edifice seems to have been finished only in 1864, owing partly to the death of the Architect, Br. Schmidt.
Today St. Xavier’s Parish attracts people from far and near to attend Mass or just to spend some quiet time with the Lord.
St. Xavier’s Parish,
St. Vincent Street
Pune 411 001, Tel 26356776